Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Reunited by Hilary Weisnman Graham

1 Concert
2000 Miles
3 Ex-Best Friends

Alice, Summer, and Tiernan are ex-best friends.

Back in middle school, the three girls were inseparable. They were also the number one fans of the rock band Level3.

But when the band broke up, so did their friendship. Summer ran with the popular crowd, Tiernan was a rebellious wild-child, and Alice spent high school with her nose buried in books.

Now, just as the girls are about to graduate, Level3 announces a one-time-only reunion show.

Even though the concert’s 2000 miles away, Alice buys three tickets on impulse. And as it turns out, Summer and Tiernan have their own reasons for wanting to get out of town. Good thing Alice’s graduation gift (a pea-green 1976 VW camper van known as the Pea Pod) is just the vehicle to get them there.

But on the long drive cross-country, the girls hit more than a few bumps in the road. Will their friendship get an encore or is the show really over?


I love road trip books, and I love books about trying to rekindle past friendships, even if they ended for a specific reason rather than simply drifting apart, so when I first hard about this one, I was all in. Shifting between the perspectives of all three girls, readers get an all access past to who they are and who they used to be. Though the voices didn't always sound too distinctly different, and the pacing lagged in a few places, Graham does a great job blending the whole overcoming the wrongs we've done to each other thing with an awkward yet fun road trip. 

Looking at the three girls at the start of the book, it's hard to picture them friends, even if it was several years ago. They are all so drastically different, from straight and narrow, almost boring Alice to popular yet somewhat depressed Summer, to Tiernan, the girl who just goes with it and doesn't seem to mind what people think of her. They've each settled into their own lives, yet it's clear that at least in some way, each of them holds on to their past friendship. While it was kind of annoying to know that something big happened between them, and have to wait most of the book to find out what it was, something that felt partly out of convenience rather than purely because the characters just couldn't say it yet, the actual reason their friendship fell apart is so simple, so... trivial, almost, that it adds a great realistic note to the book. By itself, it doesn't seem enough, but set into the changes already happening to the girls, and it's sort of like the final straw. Still, each of them goes their own sort of change and development, and Graham does a fantastic job of portraying each girl, yet bridging them together as well.

 Reunited is a mix of serious and funny, of laying things out there and keeping other things close to your heart. Though sometimes the funny parts were a little too forced for me, there was also a basic realism to them, and an overall feel good kind of thing going on, that it worked out in the end. Graham throws in some great scenes to set this apart from other road trip books, and keeps a strong character and emotional tie the entire time. Though the voices didn't always come across as different, the writing itself has an easy flow to it and a nice flair of humor and feeling added in. Overall, Reunited is an engaging, amusing and enjoyable read, and perfect for the summertime. 

Source: ARC received from publisher/author in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 336 pages 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication Date: June 12, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Review: Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London

SUMMARY: This electrifying new trilogy blends the best of paranormal and dystopian storytelling in a world where the war is over. And the vampires won.

Humans huddle in their walled cities, supplying blood in exchange for safety. But not even that is guaranteed. Dawn has lost her entire family and now reluctantly serves as the delegate to Lord Valentine, the most powerful vampire for miles. It isn’t until she meets Victor, Valentine’s son, that she realizes not all vampires are monsters....

Darkness Before Dawn is a fresh new story with captivating characters, unexpected plot twists, a fascinating setting, and a compelling voice. Written under the name J. A. London by a talented mother-son team, the trilogy is perfect for fans of True Blood and the House of Night and Morganville Vampires series.


With an interesting twist on vampires in a post-apocalyptic setting, Darkness Before Dawn merges the best parts of fantasy and dystopian, while also infusing hints of our reality into it. There are some stunning twists in this one, and an overall steady pace that leads to a great climax of an ending, and leaves things set up perfectly for the next installment. Bringing in some rougher elements, and adding in gentle romance and humor as well, this one is definitely one to not be missed.

Dawn is a stunning character, one with an immense amount of internal strength and drive. Still pained over the loss of her parents, the former delegates to Lord Valentine, and not over her brother’s death several years before, she has her wounds and holds them close to herself. The moments when she lets them go, shows the deeper parts of things, however, are stunning and poignant, and will draw readers in. She goes through a tremendous amount of growth, not just in who she is but the way she views the world as well, and each driving moment for it is handled smoothly. Standing up for herself when she needs to, yet also understanding of others, she is an easy character to get behind.

Victor is an equally well done character, very multifaceted and enamoring. Though a vampire, there is a strong bit of humanity in him, which goes far to challenge Dawn’s views on things. With a slow burn between the two, and a deep connection that forms between them, their budding romance is both sweet and heated. Going beyond just human/vampire, with other things to stand in their ways, this one has hints of the forbidden romance without being the outright draw of it. Victor really is a great guy, quietly intense and incredibly perceptive, and several of the best moments in the book included him.

Tegan, Dawn’s best friend, had hints of stereotypical in her, yet she was, overall, a loyal friend. Though Dawn couldn’t always be completely open with her, and Tegan definitely pulls Dawn into some not so great situations, there is still a great friendship and understanding between them. Then there’s Michael, Dawn’s boyfriend, who left me with a sour taste in my mouth a few times. Though seemingly perfect at the start, Michael is a little too testosterone and pride driven at times, with a reckless and skewed view of things. What seems to be a petty fight to me as a reader ends up being much more to him, leaving me less than impressed with him. At times, I felt like his reactions were simply a tool to drive Dawn closer to Victor, rather than anything too true to his character. Still, there were some sweet moments between Michael and Dawn, and overall, I fully appreciate and understand the way these two rely on each other, yet also are starting to verge apart. The history behind them makes this difficult, and overall, despite my few personal gripes, I think London navigated the trials of their relationship smoothly.

I loved the plot of this one, especially the unexpected twists thrown in. Though a few things can be potentially guessed, or at least readers will have an idea that something is off, there are some things that pack a huge punch when they’re revealed. With just the right amount of clues dropped at perfect moments, the reader figures things out at about the same pace, for the most part, as Dawn does, bridging a stronger connection there. Filled with intrigue, smoothly written and a great voice to it, this one straddles the genre lines in a great way. With a beautifully crafted world ruled by vampires, and the confines and laws of it showcased throughout the book, yet also being a world that can easily be understood, Darkness Before Dawn pitches a new tale on vampires and does it remarkably.

Source: ARC received from author in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Paperback: 368 pages 
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: May 29, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Book Review: Unbreak My Heart by Melissa Walker

SUMMARY: Sophomore year broke Clementine Williams’ heart. She fell for her best friend’s boyfriend and long story short: he’s excused, but Clem is vilified and she heads into summer with zero social life.

Enter her parents’ plan to spend the summer on their sailboat. Normally the idea of being stuck on a tiny boat with her parents and little sister would make Clem break out in hives, but floating away sounds pretty good right now.

Then she meets James at one of their first stops along the river. He and his dad are sailing for the summer and he’s just the distraction Clem needs. Can he break down Clem’s walls and heal her broken heart?

Told in alternating chapters that chronicle the year that broke Clem’s heart and the summer that healed it, Unbreak My Heart is a wonderful dual love story that fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Susane Colasanti will flock to.


With a strong emotional atmosphere, and delving beautifully into a gray area of relationships, Unbreak My Heart is a solid romance built into a coming of age. Easily switching between the past and the present, and building Clem’s character steadily through both, this one takes common elements and threads them together in a new way. With a well described setting centered on the boat, and cutting off much of the usual methods of communication, Walker leaves her mark with this one.

Clem is a highly relatable character, a girl who is a mess at the start of the book with a rough view of herself. Broken up over losing her best friend after she fell for said friend’s boyfriend, but also hurting at losing the boy who she felt such a deep connection with, Clem’s broken heart and shattered feelings are beautifully showcased, and smoothly navigated. While simultaneously watching her fall apart and put herself back together, readers will have an all access pass to who Clem was before, is now, and is becoming. Clem has a strong family support system, even if she actively tries to push them away, and a little sister that is full of life and is in, truth, quite an inspiration. While her parents do push some, they also give her space, trying to let her work things out on her own while making it clear they are there. Admittedly, Clem is selfish and bratty at times, but when set against the horrible view she has of herself over what’s happened, it’s easy to look past and understand.

Notable about this book is the way Walker handles the almost particular situation that Clem found herself in with Ethan and Amanda. With strong feelings she can’t help tainting her judgment, and in truth, egged on by the boy who should only be giving that sort of attention to Amanda, it’s easy as a reader and a person to understand why Clem did what she did. There is an inherent emotional air to this, and while the natural reaction is to dislike Clem for seemingly going after her best friend’s boyfriend, Walker has explained things without excusing them in the most perfect way. Leaving readers with mixed feelings towards not only Clem but Amanda and Ethan as well in regards to this, and likely drawing up emotions from their own past, Unbreak My Heart has a rawness to it that shines.

Then there’s James, the boy who helps Clem sort through everything. Always with a smile, and a different sort of view on life, James is quietly charming and outwardly fun. Not necessarily the standard view of hot, but definitely cute, James is one of those guys who has such a strong personality that the other stuff just doesn’t matter as much. The building romance between James and Clem is sweet, with a friendship growing as much as stronger feelings.

This one has a steady pacing to it, and despite taking place entirely on a sailboat or in marinas, there are plenty of things going on. Focused heavily on Clem, and with stellar characterization, this is an emotionally driven book yet has a vividness to it that will keep readers engaged. With a strong voice, and smooth writing, Walker will keeps readers thinking of her book long after the pages are done.

Source: Netgalley 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up  
Hardcover: 240 pages 
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: May 22, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

SUMMARY: When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero.


Raw, aching, beautiful, thrilling, enamoring, sweet and funny. This book goes through such a range of emotions, and shifts between them so fluidly. I cried reading this one, and I’m not someone who cries easily. But Doller has such a way with words, putting so much into so few words, packing a powerful punch. Something Like Normal gutted me and put me back together, and left me a better person for it. This is a book that has challenged me and opened my eyes, and one that is truly a must read for everyone.

I adore Travis. Okay, so he’s a jerk sometimes, and he definitely has his flaws. But he is so loyal and devoted, so determined and intelligent. I understood him so well, every step of the way and without having to try. Doller has built him so fabulously, showing us this brash young man at the start who keeps everyone and everything at arm’s length and changing him into something else, yet still being the same overall person. His motivations, reactions, and drives were all perfectly scripted, yet lurking underneath the bigger stuff. Even when he couldn’t see it, as a reader, I could, and yet I stayed right beside him and in his head the entire time, never really feeling as though I had access to some extra information he didn’t. His entire character arc is one of the best I’ve read, stunning and passionate and intense.

Then there’s Harper, a girl who I admit I have a girl crush on. She is amazing, the kind of girl who will put herself first in terms of not being a doormat or taking the hit for something just to avoid confrontation, yet she is also far from selfish or someone who will let others hurt needlessly. Needing time to herself to work through things, but not requiring major apologizes when someone’s done her wrong, Harper is the kind of person I think so many people should strive to be like, at least partly. Definitely someone who makes Travis want to be better, and a total asset to those who know her, Harper is one of my favorite characters ever. Add in the romance that grows between her and Travis, the way they interact and change and effect each other, and this is a pairing that I will always hold dear and remember fondly.

There is an unabashed honesty to this one, both in Travis’ view of the world and mindset, and in the unflinchingly realistic look into not only life in a war zone but what it’s like to come back as well. With stunning imagery, fabulous descriptions, and an emotional intensity that was infused in the words because of the actual writing without relying on an overly emotional narrator, this one had me gripped and engaged from page one and didn’t let go. From the perfectly timed lines of comedic relief to wrenching and sorrow filled scenes to electric and sweet ones, this one has an authentic feel to it both in style and voice that is hard to accurately describe.

Particularly when it comes to the war aspects of this book, Doller has done her research and honed her descriptions. Things that I didn’t think were a big deal are cast into a different light through Travis’ eyes, and watching him struggle with trying to get back into his old life, fit in with his own family, and endure the memories of what he’s been through has an amazing depth and progression to it. Such care has clearly been taking with the Marine lifestyle of this book, and Doller has done it right. Despite the overall set up being something I in no way have experienced, I related to Travis so instinctively, and was able to see things the way he does without any issue. Absolutely a book I will reread, and one that I will think back on plenty, Something Like Normal is a stunning and poignant debut from a majorly talented author.

Source: Netgalley 
Reading level: Ages 14 and up 
Hardcover: 224 pages 
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication Date: June 19, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Author Interview: Carrie Jones

I've been a fan of Carrie Jones' books since I first read Need not long after it came out, so I'm super excited to have the chance to interview Carrie, in celebrating of the release of Endure, the final book of the series!

Which book in the series was the most challenging for you? The most surprising?

ENTICE was the easiest to write because the plot line was much straighter. It’s a quest. The hardest to write was also ENTICE because my brain tends not to think in straight lines and sequential order. I tend to have thoughts that branch out like tree limbs. This is cool because it makes my brain a not-so-boring place, but bad when it comes to writing books. It was a challenge to keep it interesting despite the forward thrust of the book.

I only started writing novels in 2005 when I went to Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program. I had been a journalist and a poet person before. So, I think all my books have been ridiculously challenging. Journalists don’t have to worry so much about plot. Poets get to play so much with language and image. So, writing action scenes and having really plot-focused books was a big experiment for me. It was fun, but challenging. I started writing NEED just to see if I could actually do it. I never expected my agent to sell it. I also never expected to fall so much in love with the characters. So, those may be the most surprising aspects of it for me.

In what way do you think you've grown the most as a writer over the course of the series?

I hope that I’ve gotten taller. I always could stand to grow another inch or so. I’m far too short.

In terms of craft? I hope that I’ve become better at plotting, at story structure, and description. One of my professors at Vermont said I have a tendency to find my characters’ shoes fascinating. Hopefully, I’ve grown beyond that.

Which boy would your teenage self have wanted to kiss more: Astley or Nick?

Oh my gosh! It feels so evil to chose! I would probably initially wanted to kiss Nick more. I have a thing for puppies. But dog breath? Hm…. Unless there were Milk Bones around to freshen that up, I’d have to chose Astley.

What aspect of creating the pixie world did you enjoy the most?

Pixie lore is not as hard and fast as vampires or werewolves or fairies or much of the western myths. I liked being able to play with the often contradictory legends and then blend it with Norse myths as well. I could never write about vampires because I’d be so afraid of breaking with the hard-core mythology behind them.

If you could pair Zara, Astley and Nick with any character from any book, who would you pick for each?


Zara would have to go with Mr. Spock from some Star Trek fanfiction. Why? Because I am evil… I think it would be funny seeing someone so in touch with their emotions deal with the emotionally repressed Vulcans. Plus, blue pixie blood and green Vulcan blood would make a cool color.

Astley – Hermione from Harry Potter. Think about it. It would totally work.

Nick – Mirabelle, the Boston Terrier who starred in The Adventures of Mirabelle.

What god/goddess would be your nemesis?

Echidna. She’s the mother of all monsters (or at least half). It’s hard to not have her be a nemesis. She was part snake though, which makes her pretty cool.

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

I think I’m a double chocolate chip sandwich cookie with a Nutella ganache actually. I plan on returning as one in my next life.

Thank you, Carrie, and congrats on the Endure release!

This one is on shelves now, so make sure you pick it up!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review: Arise by Tara Hudson

SUMMARY: Amelia—still caught between life and death—must fight for every moment of her relationship with the human boy Joshua. They can hardly even kiss without Amelia accidentally dematerializing. Looking for answers, they go to visit some of Joshua’s Seer relatives in New Orleans. But even in a city so famously steeped in the supernatural, Amelia ends up with more questions than answers…and becomes increasingly convinced that she and Joshua can never have a future together.Wandering through the French Quarter, Amelia meets other in-between ghosts, and begins to seriously consider joining them. And then she meets Gabrielle. Somehow, against impossible odds, Gaby has found a way to live a sort of half-life...a half-life for which Amelia would pay any price. Torn between two worlds, Amelia must choose carefully, before the evil spirits of the netherworld choose for her.


Without really wasting time recapping events from Hereafter, yet also easing readers back into Amelia’s story, Arise is a well done follow up to an already awesome series. With some big plot twists, and an overall storyline that is original and beautifully developed, this book delves further not only into Amelia’s afterlife but pulls in other ghosts as well. Using some known concepts yet twisting them to be something unique and her own, Arise is creative and alluring.

I love Amelia, from the still behind the times way she sees the world to her fascinating with things. She is a fantastic protagonist, someone who is a bit pessimistic yet also hopeful to the important things. The way she feels towards Joshua has a certain poignancy to it, and there is a breathtaking realism despite the whole she’s a ghost and he’s a human thing. Add in the hot kisses these two share, and the soft looks that say so much, and the romance in this one is a great driving point for things without being the only focus.

My only gripe about this one is how conveniently oblivious Joshua’s parents seemed, at times making me feel as though they didn’t notice things for ease rather than because they truly are that unaware. Still, they are an active part of Joshua’s life and far from absent. Adding to this is one specific thing at the very end of the novel, things readers will question and wonder, that was, in my opinion, blatantly left out simply to leave something lingering for the next book. This didn’t sit quite right with me, mostly because I just couldn’t totally believe the pair wouldn’t at least try to see if things were different. Apart from these two small things, Arise is a stunning book that had me gripped and unable to stop reading.

This installment takes place mostly in New Orleans, and Hudson does a fabulous job bringing it to life. From the descriptions of the buildings to the beignets and The French Quarter, the richest parts of New Orleans are woven easily throughout the book. With only a few things that are predictable, Hudson’s tale is imaginative and twisting, leaving readers hoping for the best but at times fearing the worst. Rounding out the big parts of this plot, but leaving hints of what is to come in the next book, Arise propels this series forward in a great way and leaves the characters changed for the better.

Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 13 and up 
Hardcover: 416 pages 
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 5, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

All These Lives Blog Tour: Jena

Sarah Wylie's (seriously amazing) debut All These Lives is set to hit shelves June 5, so to celebrate the upcoming release, Sarah's stopping by various blogs to talk about 9 Things to Love About All These Lives.

Today, we're focusing on Thing #1: Jena and I've got an interview for you guys with the girl of the hour!

For those of you that missed my review last week, here's the book summary, so you have an idea of who Jena is:

Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky.  She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal.  And Jena is wasting away.  To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives.  Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one.  Someone like Jena.  But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization.  Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all.  Maybe she really only ever had one.

Your relationship with your sister, Dani, has been a little strained lately. How would you best describe your sisterly bond?

Um. We don’t like many of the same things, and we don’t always get along, but I would harness all my soccer skills to kick the butt of anyone who messed with her. I think she’d do the same for me.

If you could tell Dani one thing that would stick with her forever, what would it be?

She’d hate me for saying this – hate me – but I guess I would say that even now, even after every thing that’s happened, I’m still glad it was me and not her.

Dani thinks she's been sneaky with many of her attempts at self destruction, but is she really fooling you?

No. I mean, I don’t always know what she’s doing, but I have no doubt she’s up to something.

What is your favorite childhood memory with your sister?

This one time I had the chickenpox and my mom wouldn’t let Dani anywhere near me because she’d never had it. I don’t know how Dani managed it (my mom is known for her hawk-like watching skills), but she snuck into my room. We giggled and talked and “hid” from Mom for what felt like hours. It wasn’t, like, the best moment of my childhood or anything but it had felt like years since I’d seen my sister. The best moment of my childhood might have been Mom’s freak-out when she found Dani.

Which guy is more your type: Jack or Spencer?

What’s the least offensive way to put this? Dani and I have totally different tastes in guys. (It is better that way, trust me.) I mean, Jack is an obsessive rule-follower, he’s awkward and shy; Spencer is an obsessive rule-breaker, overconfident and cocky. How about a nice, normal, issue-free dude somewhere in the middle? The only requirements: He would sit with me and listen to the New York Dolls for hours on repeat. He wouldn’t ask about my hair. He’d know that my go-to drink is a mocha, and Dani’s is anything with caramel. And he’d hate Liverpool on principle, even if he didn’t know anything about soccer.

What's the thing you miss most about going to school?

I miss the mind-numbing normalcy of it all. Before I was sick, we were all a bit zombie-like: my dad working nonstop, Mom managing Dani’s, er, career, Dani and I just doing regular stuff like homework and soccer and auditions and hanging out at the mall. Calling it zombie-like makes it sound like a bad thing, but it wasn’t. Now, it feels like we’re holding our breaths, waiting for something, anything, to happen. I miss crappy cafeteria food, too, and my friends. I haven’t spoken to them in forever.

To celebrate the book's release, Sarah has an awesome prize pack lined up that you can enter here to win! It includes a signed copy of All These Lives, 3 All These Lives Bookmarks, and three pre-orders of any Apocalypsies' books.

For more about Sarah, or to just preorder the book (Trust me, you want to):
Author Website / Blog / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble

Exclusive Cover Reveal: Dualed by Elsie Chapman

Today, I've got the exclusive cover reveal for you guys for a book that I am seriously excited about!

The book? Dualed by Elsie Chapman. And since I know you're basically skipping whatever I write up here anyhow, let's get to the (amazing and gorgeous) cover and then the book details!

Is this cover not amazing? A nice mix of eye catching and kick butt. Can I also say how much I LOVE the shadow coming off her that looks far more dangerous?

For those of you who aren't sure what this book is about, here's the summary (taken from Elsie's website):

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

Um. Yeah. Does that not sound seriously amazing?! Just from that summary, I think the cover is all kinds of fitting and I cannot wait to get my hands on this book!

Dualed is coming February 2013 from Random House. I know, it's a crazy wait, but I think it'll be worth it! And in the meantime, you can add it to your Goodreads shelf here, and let Elsie know how excited you are on twitter!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Droolworthy Upcoming Books

I've been on a reading tear lately, and have read several upcoming books that I won't be posting the review for since it's still so early. With how busy I've been lately, reading tear aside, I haven't done my usual mini reviews either. So this post is an even mini-er mini review set, all about upcoming books that blew my mind, with a few that I haven't yet read but am positive will be amazing thrown in.

The Program by Suzanne Young: I love Suzanne. You guys know this. I swear everything she writes is total crack for me, and has such depth and emotions to it that generally, I ache. The Program is no different. It's an amazing story with absolutely stunning characters, and some seriously hot kiss scenes.

Altered by Jenn Rush: Hot. Boys. Times four. Seriously, the chances of you not falling for at least one of these boys is basically slim to none. But it's not just the boys. The entire story is just. Wow. So many twists, so many turns. Clues that are just frigging amazing. It's a stunningly woven story, and I absolutely cannot wait for book 2.

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger: This one is, technically, a middle grade. It doesn't matter, except that means those of you with younger kids have another awesome book you can share with them. This book is, in a word, epic. The scope and span, the ideas and the worldbuilding the execution and the characters. All of it. This book truly blew my mind and stunned me and left me in absolutely awe of Shannon. So even if you usually shy away from MG, do yourself a favor, and don't let this one pass you by.

Hidden by Sophie Jordan: A perfectly done and beautiful ending to one of my favorite series. Sophie pretty much just keeps throwing unexpected things at you, and pulls you in with the writing... and the HOT kisses. Yum.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: I am not too big on high fantasy. I'm also not usually too big on historical. But then I read Throne of Glass, and those facts did not matter. This one isn't set in any specific period, and though there's hints of the high fantasy stuff, at least in this first installment, it's muted. But the story? Oh. My. God. So freaking amazing. So beautifully executed. And the characters. I have so much love for Sarah's characters. They have such deeply woven character arcs, changing in small ways that add up to big changes that are palpable. I absolutely cannot wait for more from Sarah. I'm addicted now.

Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie: I've been dying for this book for awhile now. I mean, male POV. Dead army brother. Sorrow and hurt and all that good stuff that I love? Yes. Please. And let me say, this one lived up to my hopes and then some. It is fabulously well written, with a totally gutting but amazing character arc.

Butter by Erin Jade Lange: This one is a totally morbid concept, and honestly, there are so many ways this book could have failed. But it doesn't, at all. I loved Butter's character, I loved the story, I loved the depth of everything. Butter is not a stereotypical fat kid, nor is he just so drawn into himself that he can't see anything but the bad stuff (despite the whole suicide thing). There is a stellar character arc to him, and add in the wit he has, and he's a fabulous character.

Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt: Besides the fact that I fell in love with Tiffany's writing, what really dragged me in with this book is the fact that, yes, Mia gets cancer, but it's not really a cancer book. Sure, having to deal with it, and go through the treatments, and the fear is definitely in there. But it's also this girl still trying to keep her life together, trying to figure stuff out. There's romance and pain and heartbreak, but hope and beauty and fun. This is a perfect mix of feel good and tear your heart out.

So those are books forthcoming that pretty much sent me into a frenzy. And most of those are ones that, from reading the summary, I just knew it would be for me. So here's a few upcoming books that I feel the same way about, that I cannot wait to get my hands on and would totally use Toby in nefarious ways to get.

Flawed by Kate Avelynn: I expect so much dark intensity and pain and heartbreak and horror and more pain from this book. I mean, come on. Her brother promises to protect her, but she can never leave him? Psychological devastation here I come.

Taken by Erin Bowman: I've been drooling over this one for over a year now. I've seen some of Erin's beta readers gush and gush on twitter. The story sounds amazing, and the characters sound so appealing. And okay, I totally love the name Gray. There is just something so inherently sexy about it. So if I had to pick a number one book of 2013, this would be it.

The Patron Saint of Beans by Emily Murdoch: So, word on the street, or from Emily on twitter, is that this one is getting a new title, but since it's yet to be released, I'm going with the old one. Because man, I so want this book! Let's ignore my love of the title since that's moot soon. This entire premise has just... completely grabbed and captivated me. This one just sounds like one of those books that might shove a knife in your gut, but it'll also stitch you back up so tightly that you're euphoric.

The Collector by Victoria Scott: "Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it." Um. I want to know all about it too. I mean, okay, so he's a demon, and a soul collector. I pretty much don't care. I want to meet this boy, and learn all about him, and see what he does. My excitement over this book is ridiculous. And having to wait is even more ridiculous.
Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger: I'm already a Shannon fangirl after reading Keeper, but this one is her YA. And it's dual male and female POV. And you guys know how much I freaking love male POV. And the story itself just sounds seriously amazing. So if someone wanted to steal this one for me and make it magically appear in my hands, I wouldn't be opposed.

Author Word Associations: Jenny Torres Sanchez

Today I've got Jenny Torres Sanchez, author of The Downside of Being Charlie, here for a round of word associations! I've given her random words, and she's giving us the first thing that comes to mind.

Velvet: Black

Waterbottle: Water

Rattlesnake: Slither

Trachea: Tube

Imagination: Rainbow

First Dibs: Petty

Flower Pot: Terra cotta

Balloon: Red

Sushi: Yuck

Cobbler: Peach

Elf: Keebler

Chicken: Cordon bleu

Blue: Wave

Thank you, Jenny, for playing and congrats on the release!

So what words did you guys think of first?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Books to Reread

I admit, that though I buy a ton of books, many of which I read as ARCs and then buy the finished copy, it is not very often that I actually reread the book. I buy them not only to support the author, but because I love having them on my shelf, and because then I can easily loan them out. Both of my best friends get a new stack of books every time I see them, so the books get used, discussed, passed on even beyond them.

But every now and then, there is a book that stands out to me so phenomenally, gets inside my heart and head so fully, that I not only am unable to stop thinking about it for days, weeks even, after I've finished, but I'll reread it. So this post is all about the books that have affected me so intensely that they've been reread.

Where She Went by Gayle Forman: I was drooling for this book and ignored everything else to immediately read it the day I got it. A few months went by, and every now and then, my thoughts would go back to it. Finally, I caved, and sat down and read it again. And fall in love all over again. With the story, with Adam, with the voice. But mostly, with the emotions and intensity and true gutting I felt as I read it, as I suffered right alongside Adam. And okay, so I wanted that amazing release and feeling of total satisfaction that came at the end of the book.

A Need so Beautiful by Suzanne Young: This book is so different from so much else. Suzanne is hands down one of my favorite authors, and I've read Need a total of three times. I've read the sequel, A Want so Wicked that comes out next month, about four times, and will absolutely read it again once it's published. Actually, I will probably read the two back to back, because the story just gets to me that much.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller: I know, it's not even out yet. I don't care. I read it straight through in one sitting. Reread the next day. And reread my favorite parts repeatedly for the next week or so. I couldn't pick up anything else after I finished this one. Once it's officially released, and my preorder gets to me, I will most definitely be reading it, again. This is a book that broke me apart in more than one way, fixed me a little and shattered me all over again. I cried, more than once, reading this book, and fully intend to break every time I reread it.

In Honor by Jessi Kirby: I. Adore. This. Book. And Rusty. He is easily one of my favorite male characters ever. But it's not just Rusty, though I maybe love the scene where he drives in just his boxers a little too much. It's the overall feel of this one, the emotions, the... pain. Yet, despite the grief that is splashed so heavily in the characters, there is such an intense note of hope and healing. This one broke me, but in a different way than Something Like Normal did, and there really is nothing quite like having a book tear you apart and piece you back together.

Freefall by Mindi Scott: Total favorite, right here. I read it as an ARC, as a finished copy, and I won a totally marked up copy from Mindi that made me read the book twice more - once to see all of her comments, and once because I got so into the comments I only glanced at what they referenced but it made me want to fall back into the book all over again. There is something so... boy... about Seth's mindset. So simple, so amazingly well done. Seth is an awesome character, and this is the epitome of just trying to figure crap out and make your way in the world. Add in the romance, and teh sweetness that surrounsd it, and this book. Love.

Those are the main books that stand out, off the top of my head, as worthy of a reread. But there are a few others that I know, soon enough, will worm their way back into my head and I'll sit back down with them:

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour: This is a book that, honestly, I do not know how to properly explain my love for it. It's the whole package, amazing characters, a stellar storyline, and a stunning voice. I felt so much while I read this one, yet I kept laughing throughout it too.

Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock: Hot werewolf boys FTW. But this is more than a werewolf book. It's more than a book with a love triangle (do not let that turn you off. Trust me. It's a realistic, well done, natural one). This book is a clusterf*** of brilliant twists and shocking turns, of character pain and hope.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma: This is one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. It is the epitome of atmospheric writing. Of there being something just not quite right. This is one of those books that, sure, has a twist at the end, yet you kind of predict it... because you're meant to. But mostly, this book just wrapped around every part of me so much that even now, a year later, I still remember details, and still ache for it.

Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins: Apart from the fact that I have an intense amount of love for the hot hot hot boy in this book, this is one of those whole package books. Sure, some parts might seem cliche, but Wendy twists it to something different, plays it into a great overall story... but the characters. Wow. They shine. They are so intense. So engaging. So... hurt. This book made me ache, and made me want to punch something.

Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard: This is a style of writing I will never be able to accomplish, and honestly, reading what Kirsten can do, maybe I don't want to try. But apart from the amazing writing and stunning setting, the story of this one had such a soft intensity to it that... honestly? I did not notice the lack of romance. Gasp. I know. No hot boy, and I was unable to put it down. That is how amazing this book is. You will not miss the lack of romance, because the relationship between Grace and Mandarin is so amazing that romance isn't needed.

So what books have gotten to you so much that, despite all the amazing books waiting to be read, you pull it back out and reread?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Guest Post + Contest: Alissa Grosso

I'm the next stop on Alissa Gross's tour for her newest release, Ferocity Summer, and we're going to be talking all about Going Back to High School!

I'm currently on a Blog Tour Road Trip to promote my new book Ferocity Summer, which is now available. Don't forget to read to the end of this post to find out how you can enter a drawing for your very own summer survival pack, which includes a signed copy of Ferocity Summer.

In Ferocity Summer, I decided to do something that I didn't do with my first book Popular. I set the book in an actual place, the town, in fact, where I lived as a teen. Sure, I took a few liberties. The Dairy Queen mentioned in the book hasn't been there in over a decade. The lake where the main character lives, Cherry Blossom Lake, is a complete fabrication, though Byram Township has plenty of other very real lakes.

One place, where I didn't cheat was the high school. (Hey, I just realized that sounded funny, but it's also true, I never cheated in high school!) The high school my main character, Scilla, attends is Lenape Valley Regional High School. It is a very real high school. How do I know? I went there, too.

Back when Ferocity Summer was nothing but an unpublished manuscript, I didn't really worry too much about the many actual places I used as settings in the book. I always figured I could go back and change things later. I did change a few things here and there. I left the high school, though, and even took a trip back there last summer so that we could film some shots of the outside of it for my book trailer. At least from the outside, it doesn't like it's changed much.

I would be lying if I said that I didn't have a misgiving or two about setting my book at the actual high school I attended. Mostly I'm thinking it would have made more sense to throw good old Lenape into a slightly more positive book. Why did I have to use my high school as a setting for a book about an illegal drug and the misadventures of some teens who have difficult time staying on the right side of the law? Surely, I've killed off any chance I ever had of getting invited to the school for an author visit.

I know lots of authors use real places as settings in their books. So, now I close with a question for your, have you ever read a novel and read about a place you know or have been to?

And because what's a road trip without souvenirs, Alissa has a contest going on to win a copy of Ferocity Summer! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter, but if that doesn't work for you, you can enter by just leaving a blog comment (and a way to contact you).

This contest ends May 20, and is international.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Interview: Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Stopping in today is Lynda Mullaly Hunt to talk about her debut release One for the Murphys!

If you were in Carley's situation, do you think you would have taken to the Murphys sooner than her?

Well, Carley is observant (as am I) and tough. However, no matter how tough a kid is, most would love to be protected. To feel like someone was there to speak for them. I think most people would like that.

I put in a chapter where Mrs. Murphy proved her mettle to Carley by stepping in when Carley assumed she’d be on her own. I did that because, in order for Carley to gain some trust in Mrs. Murphy in a timeline that wouldn’t take 500 pages, I needed something that would shock her. Open her up even when she didn’t want to be. Of course, none of this take place on the outside, really.

Given a circumstance like that scene, I think I would react to Mrs. Murphy—and learn to trust her—in a very similar timeline to Carley. But, I guess that’s not a shock. J

Which of the three Murphy boys was the most interesting for you to write and develop?

Well, Daniel would have to be the most interesting because at the heart of him, he is more similar to Carley than either of them would think. Daniel is also struggling to figure out who he is, stand his ground to make his own decisions. He does some things that aren’t that nice but his heart is good. I understood why he behaved the way he did—and I hope readers do as well. However, I loved writing his moment of triumph and I loved how Carley and Daniel came together to be friends.

What part of the book surprised you the most as you were writing it?

Well, writing the flashback when the reader finds out why Carley is in foster care shocked me. I literally pulled my hands from the keys as if they were hot upon typing what happened. It came out of me, but I had no idea that it was going to happen.

Which Death Eater, besides Voldemort, would you want to fight?

In the spirit of protective mothers (such as Julie Murphy), I would fight Bellatrix who attempts to kill Ginny Weasley but is then killed by Ginny’s mother. I have to admit that I kind of liked that scene. However, Bellatrix is also just plain evil, torturing Hermione and killing Dobby who is pure innocence.

My first thought for an answer was Malfoy, but Malfoy couldn’t bring himself to kill Dumbledore, so he has sliver of good in him –even though he is a pompous jerk from the very first scene in the very first book. But, Bellatrix? Do NOT like her—but, then again, I don’t think I was supposed to.

What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?

Well, I guess I’m going to go with the Oreo. I do think I tend to be layered, however, I’m also a “what you see is what you get” kind of person, too.

Thank you, Lynda, and congrats on the release!

You guys can check out the first chapter here, and check out the trailer here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Review: All These Lives by Sarah Wylie

SUMMARY: Sixteen-year-old Dani is convinced she has nine lives. As a child she twice walked away from situations where she should have died. But Dani’s twin, Jena, isn’t so lucky. She has cancer and might not even be able to keep her one life. Dani’s father is in denial. Her mother is trying to hold it together and prove everything’s normal. And Jena is wasting away.

To cope, Dani sets out to rid herself of all her extra lives. Maybe they’ll be released into the universe and someone who wants to live more than she does will get one. Someone like Jena. But just when Dani finds herself at the breaking point, she’s faced with a startling realization. Maybe she doesn’t have nine lives after all. Maybe she really only ever had one.


Affecting, engrossing and beautiful, All These Lives is a novel of pain, heartbreak, and moving forward. With a protagonist who is a perfect mix of reckless and worried, and who will steal reader hearts from the start, this one is filled with voice and emotion. Smoothly written and perfectly built, All These Lives is a stunning and breathtaking novel.

Dani is a firecracker in her own right, filled with life and a bold determination despite the hurt she constantly endures about her twin sister’s illness. Willing to do anything for her sister, and unable to always stay strong in the face of what her family is enduring, there is a gutting authenticity to Dani that is astounding in scope. Aware that her view on having multiple lives is abnormal, but with a steady belief and reasons for why she believes it so firmly, Dani is far from crazy yet playing in dangerous territory all the same. Rough around the edges, and with plenty of flaws of her own, Dani is a very multifaceted, fully fleshed out character.

Through memories on Dani’s side, and scenes both sad and fun, the reader gets a full view of who Jena used to be and is now. Determined to keep pushing, despite the way her body is wasting away from the cancer, there is a deep connection between the twins even they cannot immediately see. Bickering at times, and completely loving at others, the relationship between these two mirrors not only how close they use to be, but reminds readers that even an illness can not completely tear them apart. Still, Dani’s pain towards her sister puts a noticeable strain on the two, yet also gives rise to some fantastic scenes centered around them.

With two parents who are strongly present, each a little flawed but far from bad parents, and a small amount of side characters, this is a very compact cast but each one is well written. From the dad who not only can’t save his daughter but has to watch the woman he loves suffer as a result to the mom who will do anything for her daughter, while also trying not to just completely ignore the other one, Wylie’s character development skills are stunning. Then there’s Jack, an awkward yet charming boy who has his own way of not only helping Dani but worming his way into reader’s hearts as well. With only hints of romance throughout the book, Jack toes the line between friend and more, yet Wylie never lets the focus stray far from Dani’s bigger issues.

The plot is basic yet unique in concept, with a very steady pacing that plays heavily into not only the rough truths of dealing with a family member who has cancer but also Dani’s personal journey in all of it. Beautifully weaving in the multiple lives aspect, and not shying away from the full scope of not only their impact on Dani and her family but the bigger questions it brings up, Wylie has built a striking story.

Also notable about this book is Wylie’s way of infusing tangible emotion into every page, pushing readers to the edge and leaving them raw. From soft and sweet to aching and unflinching, Wylie runs the gauntlet of emotions and reactions, not only from Dani but those around her as well. Wonderfully written and with some spectacular descriptions, Wylie’s writing talent shines as much as her character skills.

Awing in execution and gripping in concept, All These Lives is both beautiful and heavy. With a feisty and exceptionally well done protagonist, readers will not only rally behind Dani but feel as though they are right there with her every step of the way. Memorable and impacting, All These Lives spins a new twist on a family member having cancer and the pain that comes with it.

Source: ARC received from publisher in exchange for an honest review 
Reading level: Ages 12 and up 
Hardcover: 256 pages 
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: June 5, 2012

Author This or That: Stefne Miller

Today, I've got Collision author Stefne Miller here for a round of this or that!

Green or Pink – Green – Both of the high schools I went to had green in their school colors, so I’ve always been a fan.

Diet or Regular – Diet. Sonic Rt. 44 Diet Coke with lime and vanilla, to be specific.

Donkey or Puss in Boots – Donkey. I love a quick witted smart ass.

Widescreen or Regular – Widescreen, otherwise I’m wondering what I’m missing.

Mechanical or Normal Pencil – Mechanical because there’s never a pencil sharpener around when you need one.

Hippogriff or Unicorn – Hippogriff.

Rock or Pop – 80’s hair band rock.

Policeman or Firefighter – Firefighter. Their outfits are sexier.

Windowseat or Aisle – Window. It gives you something to lean on.

Wall or Desk Calender – Desk, so I can doodle.

Boxers or Briefs - boxers

Polar Bear or Seal – Seal

Thank you, Stefne, and congrats on another release!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Author Interview: Karen Schreck

Dropping in today is While He Was Away author Karen Schreck to talk about the book, writing, and more!

If you were in Penna’s situation, which reason for the letters to stop would be hardest for you: that something happened, or that his feeling had changed?

I love this question—you really cut to the core of her character in this particular situation.

If I were Penna, I think I would experience both feelings regarding David’s unpredictable letters, and I think I would go back and forth between my concerns. Oh, no! I’d think initially, when I felt more secure in our relationship. Something must have happened to him. But then as days passed, and there was no “official” news of trouble, I’d think: Oh, no. His feelings for me have changed. In the tumult of emotions that can come, being separated from someone I loved, I’d probably ping pong back and forth between these assumptions.

Describe Penna and David in three words each?

Penna: Creative, Loyal, Resilient

David: Charming, Sensitive, Searching

What’s your favorite kind of scene to write?

In writing While He Was Away, I discovered how very much I love writing the details of setting—and how developing a description of place can influence the depiction of characters and the plot. (I think While He Was Away taught me this, because I’m so deeply connected to Oklahoma. I don’t live there now, but I’ve visited family there all my life—and it’s very important to my sense of self.) So . . . I LOVED writing the description of David and Penna, taking that long, roundabout ride through the Oklahoma countryside on his motorcycle. I LOVED writing about the viaduct—and the painting there—and Red Earth, the restaurant where Penna and her mom Linda work, and were so many important things happen, and the paintball place, and even David’s house and room. Those place really anchored me over the course of the writing.

If you were a demigod, what god/goddess would be your parent?

I’m all about mythology. But I have to say, though I’ve imagined which goddess I’d be—please, oh please, let me be Artemis and roam the woods—I haven’t thought about a divine parental unit.

So . . . I’m going to go out on a limb and say, given the complex choices, I’d choose Athena for a mom. As the patron goddess of Athens (a place I’ve always wanted to go), she was the Goddess of Wisdom and the Goddess of Weaving. She was also a warrior. I think she’d be a strong feminine role model, who would not just give advice, but truly wise counsel, and she’d probably weave me some incredible scarves (which I love), and when she’d teach me how to better access my own warrior spirit, and, when necessary, stand up for myself and others.

What kind of shoe would you describe yourself as?

I am first and foremost, red.

If that’s not specific enough: I’m a comfortable, low-heeled, pointy-toed, red cowboy boot.

Thank you, Karen, for the interview and congrats on the release!

While He Was Away is out now, so be sure to pick it up.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles

SUMMARY: Starting middle school brings all the usual challenges - until the unthinkable happens, and Fern and her family must find a way to heal.

Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she's not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn't know he's gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there's Charlie: three years old, a "surprise" baby, the center of everyone's world. He's devoted to Fern, but he's annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn't for Ran, Fern's calm and positive best friend, there'd be nowhere to turn. Ran's mantra, "All will be well," is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it's true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.


Emotional and wrenching, See You at Harry’s does a remarkable job of navigating pain and turmoil. This book is gripping but heartfelt, with a well rounded narrator who readers will love. Though I thought Fern’s voice felt older than her twelve years, there was still a certain naivety and innocence to her that bridges that gap. As the story progresses, Fern goes through a stunning range of emotions and changes, and the shift in the way she views the world is one of the most notable parts of this book. Having a better understanding of those around her, and not quite so inherently self centered by the end, I loved seeing Fern’s growth, however painful the road was.

This book is a study in grief, never pulling back even in the most unsettling of moments. Watching everyone around her pull back, and enduring an almost insurmountable of guilt, Fern struggles not only with her family in the aftermath of a brutal event but with trying to get past her own views on things. Desperate for affection yet unsure she is worthy of it, there is something poignantly real about her reactions that shine throughout the book. Adding to the heavily emotional air is the writing, straight to the point with some stunning descriptions and scenes. Apart from the disjoint with the voice versus age, this one is well written and smoothly scripted.

I admit it, this book made me cry, yet there were plenty of laughs in there as well. From full of life and always happy Charlie to Fern’s other brother Holden, struggling with his sexuality yet determined to figure things out on his own, Knowles vividly portrays all her characters. With a big focus on Fern’s family, this one has a different kind of feel to it even with the painful events that happen. Also rich in setting and easily weaving in restaurant life, this one has a certain spark to it that helps it stand out. Notable as well is the way Knowles has even the most mundane and innocent of things suddenly be questioned in the aftermath of things, causing both Fern and readers to rethink every day actions and normal responses. Engaging from the start, with a well developed cast and a steady pacing, See You at Harry’s is both quietly quirky and intensely affecting in some great ways.

Source: ALA Midwinter 
Reading level: Ages 10 and up 
Hardcover: 310 pages 
Publisher: Candlewick 
Publication Date: May 8, 2012

Character Interview: Ne Min from Chained

Today's guest is Ne Min, one of the characters from Lynne Kelly's debut Chained!

When you first saw Hastin, what did you think?

He looked lost. I knew he was far from home, and so was I. But I could tell he was a good boy, and that he'd be a good elephant keeper, even though he'd have a lot to learn.

What's your biggest regret?

It's hard to say. I have so many. I can't talk about my biggest regret. That doesn't mean I don't think about it. I think about it every day. Maybe if I'd been more careful, everything would have been different. If I had been stronger, I wouldn't have left home. But there were so many reminders there, I didn't know what else to do. I didn't know the reminders would follow me everywhere.

Despite everything he had to go through, are you glad Hastin is the one who took the elephant keeper job?

Oh, yes. I didn't like that he had to leave home, but I understand that he was doing what he had to do to take care of his family. And here, he did all he could to take care of Nandita. I was worried about who the new keeper would be. They aren't always kind. As soon as I met Hastin, I knew I didn't have to worry. He didn't grow up with elephants, but he has a heart for them, like I do.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?


What's your best story of Nandita?

I love the way she behaved at the first show. But I think the best story has to be about the time she protected Hastin when Timir was coming after him in anger. Nandita put herself in front of Hastin and stared down Timir until he backed away. She reminded me of someone I used to know.

Thank you, Ne Min, for dropping by and congrats, Lynne, on the release!

Chained is out now, so make sure to pick it up, especially those of you who love the more emotional kind of stories.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Giveaway: Wrecked by Anna Davies

To celebrate her new release, I've teamed up with Big Honcho Media and Simon and Schuster to bring you guys the chance to win one of two copies of Wrecked by Anna Davies!

About the Book:

In the wake of a tragic boating accident that killed her friends, 16-year-old Miranda is consumed by guilt. She has no memory of how she managed to survive the crash, only the murky dreams of a strange boy in the dark water. Her only refuge is in the late-night swims she takes alone— until one night on the beach when she meets Christian, a boy who seems eerily familiar, but keeps many secrets.

The more she fights it the faster love pulls her under. Soon she finds herself in over her head when the dangerous true nature of Christian’s secrets rise to the surface.

Wrecked is a seductive contemporary reimagination of The Little Mermaid, with a paranormal twist, from debut author Anna Davies.

Want more? Check out this book excerpt!

To enter, just fill out THIS form!

This contest is US only and ends May 23.

Prize courtesy of Simon and Schuster.

Inside the Business at Balzer + Bray and Contest

Today, I've got a different kind of post for you guys. It's one I'm way excited to share, that I think you'll enjoy.

To celebrate the release of her fourth book, Wanted, I've teamed up with Heidi Ayarbe to go behind the scenes at her Harper publishing imprint, Balzer + Bray. From acquisitions to editing to cover concepts, we've got the scoop straight from the people involved!

 1. How attached do editors get to the books they work on?

Every book that an editor acquires is a reflection of her personal taste: we buy books that we love, that speak to us, that make us turn the pages and keep us up at night. Once a book is acquired, we work for months with the author to edit and perfect it; then, leading up to publication, we pitch the book in-house to our sales representatives and convince everyone else to love it as much as we do. So as you can imagine, we get very attached to our books. For books to succeed we must believe in them and be their cheerleaders—we must be attached to them, and get others to feel attached to them too.

2. You read a manuscript and love it. What happens next?

This varies from house to house, but we’ll give you a glimpse into how it happens at a HarperCollins imprint like Balzer + Bray. If an editor here falls in love with a manuscript, the next step is to bring it to our team editorial meeting where our colleagues weigh in. If they, too, love the book then the editor is green-lighted to bring the project to the in-house acquisitions meeting. At acquisitions, our marketing and sales folks, as well as our editor-in-chief and publisher, provide feedback about where they see the book on our list and in the marketplace, discuss the sales numbers and marketing spend, etc. And if they feel as strongly about the book’s potential as we do—well, the editor is set to make an offer!

3. How do you determine long-term goals for a book?

For every book we acquire, we have a vision for it from the moment of acquisition right up through pub. In all cases, a long-term goal is to get people talking about the book and get them interested in it. On top of that, we may also want to target independent bookstores or the school and library market, or if a book is publicity-driven, where we think we can get coverage. There may be niche markets we can explore, or perhaps the author has a strong platform in another area, or a terrific social media presence. Each book has different goals, and they are determined by the literary or commercial appeal of the book, who the audience is, and how the book can fit into the market. A whole range of considerations, to be sure!

4. What goes into a cover concept?

When our designers are in the nascent stages of designing a jacket, the first step is for the editor to provide a jacket summary outlining the book’s plot, its target market, its competitive titles, and its genre. Working off this document, as well as the manuscript itself, the designer comes up with different cover concepts. The designer considers what’s working in the market, what is popular vs. overdone, what the jacket needs to communicate about the book itself. They consider illustrated covers, iconographic covers, and photographic covers. Is this book about an individual, a journey, a big adventure, a new beginning? The designer must decide what to capture in the jacket art and what must be conveyed to a potential consumer who picks up a book off the shelf. Moreover, they must consider the spine as well as the front of the jacket because sometimes books are shelved spine out in stores and sometimes they are shelved face out—and even more commonly, consumers see books only on-screen! So we also look at the jacket images quite small as well as full-size.

5. What goes into the decision to change a cover, once it's been revealed and printed on ARCs for some books?

The ARC—or, advance reader’s copy—is a book’s first time out in the world. It’s the first time retailers, bloggers, media outlets, and consumers will see the book and respond to it. For each book, we select a jacket that we believe is strong and will encourage sales. Sometimes, however, we can be wrong. Perhaps a book doesn’t get the reception we wanted, or perhaps people tell us that the cover isn’t working for them and it isn’t eliciting the reaction we intended. We take this feedback into consideration, and if we think that the book would have a better shot if we changed the cover, then we’ll go back to the drawing board. Want to get it right, and we will change the jacket if we feel it’s best for the book.

6. How many hands are involved in one book? We always think only about the editor and, perhaps, the cover design. Who else is involved in the "behind the scenes" process?

Many, many hands are involved in one book! When a book is first acquired, it is true that the editor alone handles the project for several months while the author is executing revisions. But once the book is ready to go into copyediting, a lot of people get involved. The copyeditors read the book several times, working with the editor and the author to make it flawless. In the meantime, the designers are coming up with a fabulous jacket to wow our sales representatives and, ultimately, our consumers. Our marketing and publicity teams are dreaming up creative and wonderful ways to tell people about the book and get them excited. Our sales force is talking to buyers at retail outlets such as Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, and independent bookstores to make them fall in love with the book and sell it in their stores. And our production department works with us and with the printer to get the jacket and the interior perfect and up to standard. Then there is inventory, who keep an eye on our stock, and finance, who keep an eye on everything…

Publishing a book involves a great many people, and we are always exceptionally grateful to everyone who helps makes each book a success.

7. What's one thing most people don't know about the business but probably should?

The publishing industry—especially children’s publishing—is very small. We’re a tight-knit community, and editors get to know one another, even across different houses. This makes for a lot of camaraderie, support, growth, and friendship. It’s an incredible business to be a part of, made even more incredible by the dedicated people who work in it.

Huge thank you to Sara Sargent and Donna Bray for giving me some time for this interview, and a thanks to everyone at Balzer + Bray!

Congrats, Heidi, on another release!

Wanted is on shelves now, and is a modern day Bonnie & Clyde type story, and one you definitely do not want to miss!

And because what's a celebration without a giveaway, I've got a mega prize pack up for grabs to one lucky winner! The prize pack includes a signed copy of EACH of Heidi's books (Freeze Frame, Compromised, Compulsion, and Wanted), as well as a paperback copy of one of my favorite Balzer + Bray books (besides Heidi, since those of you who know me already know how much I adore her books), A Need so Beautiful by Suzanne Young!

To enter, just fill out THIS form!

This contest is US/Can Only, and ends  May 30.